Georgia returned to the NCAA Soccer Tournament last season after a one-year hiatus.
But the Bulldogs had to hit the road for some grueling postseason trips.
This year the Bulldogs want to substantially improve their results so they don’t have to spend so much time and effort traveling.
“This should definitely be a good season for us,” Georgia forward Alexa Newfield said. “We’ve got a lot of experience coming back and a lot of the players who might not have started last year have some experience so they can step right in. Hopefully we can win some more nonconference games so we can get a higher seed so we don’t have to travel as much during the tournament. Travel can be hard. We got back from Kansas on a Sunday and then went to Duke on a Wednesday. It’s not so bad because I like to travel but it can be tolling with the time change and the jet lag from Kansas. But the coaches do a really good job of getting us out there early enough to shake the rust off of our legs from the plane ride.”
Georgia began preseason practice on July 31. The Bulldogs will hold their Red-Black scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Friday at the UGA Soccer Stadium. It is open to the public. Georgia’s first regular-season game is on Aug. 17 at home against UNC-Greensboro.
“We’re really excited for this season,” junior midfielder Nicole Locando said. “I feel like every team we play this year is really great so if we can get some more wins that will help us get that seeding up there so we can host some tournament games instead of going on the road.
Georgia went 13-7-2 last season and made the NCAA Tournament after missing the field in 2010. Georgia opened the tournament by winning 2-0 at Kansas. But the Bulldogs boarded the bus to No. 3 national seed Duke and lost 3-1 in the second round.
“We obviously want to make the NCAAs first and foremost,” Georgia head coach Steve Holeman said. “I think a legitimate goal for us this year is to get one of the top 16 seeds. That would give you home-field advantage and it would be great to open up the national tournament here in Athens.”
Georgia returns two major contributors for the 2012 campaign. Newfield set single-season school scoring records with 102 shots and 40 points as a sophomore last season. Newfield scored 16 goals and had eight assists last season. She is fifth on Georgia’s career goal scoring list with 24.
Senior goalkeeper Ashley Baker made 96 saves and recorded six clean sheets last season. She has played for England’s junior World Cup teams in 2008 and 2010.
Newfield has been named to the All White Kit Player of the Year preseason watch list. Baker is on the preseason watch list for the AWK Golden Glove award for the nation’s top goalkeeper.
“Alexa is one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the country and she’s only going to be a junior,” Holeman said. “She had a spectacular freshman campaign and followed it up with an even better sophomore year. Ashley is our captain and she’s our leader. She’s just been solid and she’s one of the top goalkeepers in the country. She has an abundance of experience. She’s super-talented, worked hard in the summer and so far this preseason she looks fantastic.”